Dear Prudence

Doggone Mad

When the mutts are mucking up your relationship.

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Dear Prudence,

I need help. I love my fiance, who is an awesome man: responsible, fun, loving, respectful, and has his life together. However … I hate his dogs. My fiance indulged them as puppies, and as a result, they are now bratty adults. Until recently, he didn’t do much training, so they bark constantly, go to the bathroom in the house, beg for food (they will jump into your lap or onto the coffee table), and don’t obey even simple commands. They drive me crazy, and I have tried insisting, coaxing, and reasoning with my fiance to train them … telling him they will be better dogs for it. I have my own dog that I’ve worked hard to train, and she is well behaved, so I know the time and patience it takes. I see the dogs every other weekend (we live several hours apart), and my feelings for them are steadily going down hill. My fiance knows that I think they are spoiled and need discipline, but he does not know the depth of my feelings. As much as I would like them to be gone, I could never ask him to give them up. It’s not a topic I constantly bring up, as I’m trying not to nag him, but if I read an article or something in a book I offer it as something we could try. I’m almost at my wits’ end. Looking toward our marriage next year, I just know living with them on a daily basis will be the cause of many arguments and much stress. I wish to avoid that. Any suggestions?

—Dog Lover Gone Rabid

Dear Dog,

Prudie is taking her life in her hands by even dealing with this letter because when she mentioned cats in a previous column, her computer started to smoke. But here are some ideas. Maybe the poorly trained dogs (well, OK, untrained) could be sent to doggy discipline school? It is unlikely, at this point, that you could make any headway with them yourself. Perhaps get a heated doghouse? You are right to feel you can’t ask him to ditch his pets, BUT you need to arrive at some solution before you marry and live there full-time. It is important that your fiance know of your wish not to nag or be angry, but also that you have grave concerns about the stress and predictable arguments. (And your own “good dog” is not particularly helpful here. In people terms, it would be as if his kids were the juvenile delinquents and yours was the class valedictorian.) You are right to want a workable solution before they play “Here Comes the Bride,” and Prudie hopes you get it. You must lay your cards on the table … and not the coffee table.

—Prudie, preparedly

Dear Prudie,

I need some help. I’m a college student in a large metropolitan area. I consider myself very progressive while my mother’s family is … well, not. They’re racist, homophobic, and make fun of anyone who is slightly different from them. Some of them even make fun of my father for being Irish! Grandma is the worst of them, and when she gets a couple drinks in her, the “n” word flies like you wouldn’t believe. You can’t differ with her, or she’ll immediately kick you out. (This is starting to look like a welcome solution.) Family is important to me, but I don’t want to even think about bringing friends home. My sister has already experienced embarrassment by bringing a boyfriend to a family gathering. I can’t date a guy without wondering whether he’ll at least be able to keep his trap shut around them. I wouldn’t put a guy in this situation since I have a hard enough time, myself, putting up with them. Should I voice my disapproval and let the devil take the hindmost, silently put up with their redneck attitudes toward those different from them, or just visit them as little as possible with no explanation? They already think I’m too “high-minded” from my college experiences. What do I do??

—Liberal in St. Louis

Dear Lib,

You are not so much liberal or “high-minded,” my dear, as unbiased, and you have all this figured out quite well. Prudie suspects you’ve already voiced disapproval, and, unfortunately, nothing is likely to change. It is a great plus that you have emotionally dismissed this xenophobic, intolerant crowd’s ideas and can still manage to spend time with them. As for bringing boyfriends around, perhaps that should not happen until there’s a ring on your finger and the young man has been thoroughly briefed about the Archie Bunkers he is about to meet.

—Prudie, tolerantly

Dear Prudie,

Several times in my life, I’ve been in the embarrassing situation where I don’t know how to make eye contact with someone who has a “lazy eye” (or amblyopia). Either I focus entirely on their good eye, or my eyes nervously dart back and forth between their eyes. Eyes are an incredibly powerful way of communicating, and when someone has a disability that prevents them from making full eye contact, I get panicky and don’t know where to focus. Do you have any advice on what to do in this situation?

—The Man Behind Hazel Eyes

Dear Man,

Ah yes, Prudie, too, has struggled with this, and while “panicky” seems more than the situation calls for, it is socially awkward. Trying to be nonchalant while talking with someone who is walleyed gives literal meaning to the saying, “One does not know where to look.” The best tactic would probably be to try and take in the whole face with your gaze, but if this is not possible, zero in on the good eye. It will be less disconcerting than focusing on the bad one.

—Prudie, unswervingly

Dear Prudence,

I’ve been dating a wonderful man for nearly two years now, and my relationship with him grows stronger every day. My relationship with his parents, however, is becoming increasingly strained. Let me outline a typical weekend visit to his parents’ home: We arrive after a three-hour drive, and within 10 minutes of our arrival, one or both of his parents will ask him to help with chores around their house. Some examples of these chores are: cleaning the gutters, trimming the hedges, tiling their bathroom floor, cutting down trees, etc. Typically these chores are very labor-intensive or time-consuming for my boyfriend. I find this situation disrespectful on several accounts. First, his parents will ask him to help with a list of chores as soon as we arrive but will completely ignore me. I am left to entertain myself while I wait for my boyfriend to complete their chores, which may take several hours or sometimes even the entire visit. What to do?


Dear C.,

How nice for your boyfriend’s parents that they gave birth to a handyman. You do not say whether he resents the Mr. Fixit routine. He may think helping out is just fine. In any case, because of the situation, perhaps you should send, not accompany this man to his parents’ house. And it doesn’t sound as though he is ignoring you, exactly; it is just hard to be good company when you’re laying tile or cutting down trees.

—Prudie, pragmatically